Ooof, this week was such a heavy episode, and I am pleasantly surprised and glad that they took their sweet time with it. It was well worth dedicating more than half of the time to Akira’s flashbacks, taking us through how she became trapped in a world of darkness in the first place. It starts off innocently, with her aspiring to be a talented player like her brother, only for their lives to fall apart after the death of their parents. First she loses her parents, next she loses her brother when he announces he is quitting koto and college so he could work, and then, despite finally winning first piece in the national competition, her two years of dedication to mastering the piece that brought her to victory was overshadowed and forgotten by Satowa’s performance.
Say what you what, but man Akira’s struggle really hurts my heart. I even teared up when she had that breakdown because I probably would have reacted the same. Two years of dedication to a single piece, the struggle to reach first place, and the pressure to save the family’s school and live up to her brother’s abilities, how could one not have a meltdown like she did? When you put that kind of effort into something, and to attain your first victory, only to be overshadowed by a disqualified performance, yeah I get that completely. But what made it so tragic was what became of her since. She has been drowning in the darkness of self-doubt, unable to meet or exceed the expectations of others, and the dread and fear of being unable to overcome her struggle of truly reaching the top. It’s an understatement why she says she’s exhausted and just done with it all. Of course letting go of it all is the key to finally being able to breathe again, but as we saw today, it is difficult for Akira to do that on her own while being held back by her inner demons. It’s clear what Akira lacks is support that Satowa has been able to attain by having joined the Koto Club, and having her grandmother being that toxic thorn at her side stirring up trouble doesn’t help either.
What we also got a glimpse of was the pressure of those who are born into these type of families. Keishi and Satowa are both considered to be prodigies, the kind those who are affiliated with the school expects to to become their families school’s respective heir. However when you throw in someone like Akira, who isn’t a genius by any means, and had only gotten this far and had yet to win a competition, the reception is far from favourable. Furthermore, we have also seen instances where if there’s heir’s position if vacant or is filled with someone who isn’t deemed as ‘capable’, that’s when things can get super ugly. The old hag saw Satowa’s excommunication as an opportunity to have Akira serve as the Hozuki School’s heir instead, even though Akira herself couldn’t care less about it.
And yet despite all of that, Akira can’t bring herself to let go of the Koto. Even though it haunts her, and brings her pain, we can see it, just by a single sound of how much she truly loves it. She has also shown us, (despite telling Takinami that she wants to quit), she has been doing her job as an instructor earnestly. Satowa even confronted her, admitted and was ashamed of herself for thinking Akira came to teach them with ulterior motives and wanted to acknowledge her sincerity towards the koto.
Another matter that was put into the spotlight this week was the gap between those who were born with the talent, versus the ordinary ones. It didn’t take Akira long to recognize that Chika is like Satowa, both who has that special quality about them, where as Sane and herself are the pitiful ordinary ones. She even thought it was cruel of Takinami to have Chika and Sane play the same part, but I think it’s actually an amazing thing when your realize Takinami had purposely made it that way. If he truly though it was going to be a problem, he would have certainly arranged it differently.
Although it didn’t really play out the way Satowa had hoped, I for one was glad she had at least taken the initiative to try and clear the tension between her and Akira. While her apology won’t change anything, I thought it was good that she had at least did it and have the courage to open up about her actions. It also comes as a bit of a relief that at least in her heart, Akira understood why she did it. She could relate since Satowa was around the same age as her when her life fell apart. In fact, you could say this is what makes them similar to one another. However even though Satowa means well when she says she wishes to learn from Akira, we saw how hard it is for Akira to grasp that when she doesn’t feel like she has anything worth to teach Satowa, who she perceives as someone who can achieve the heights she could never reach.
Overall I have to say, this is probably the strongest episode they have done to date (*including those from the first cour). The pacing was good, I am so freaking glad we are finally starting to actually hear them perform during practice— I mean, it’s about damn time! This is a music series after-all! It’s pretty sad to think I had set my expectations so low that I wasn’t expecting to actually hear Mizu no Hentai’s performance, not even a snippet, let alone Akira actually singing it either. While it wasn’t the full piece, it was certainly better than nothing, and it was still able to leave quite an impact on me.